Wednesday, March 18, 2009

All You Ever Wanted to Know About.... Puffer Fish

While strolling down the shores of Cabo San Lucas, we encountered a bizarre sea creature situated tummy side up in the sand. His eyes were wide open, body inflated to the size of a small grapefruit, and he possessed menacing spikes. A real life (except it was dead) puffer fish! I was thrilled. As we continued down the beach, we started counting puffer fish that had met their unfortunate demise upon the Cabo shore. We lost count after 17 puffer fish-it was like a veritable puffer fish graveyard. After so many encounters of the fishy kind, I decided to stick to the pool for the remainder of my swimming adventures. An ocean teeming with that kind of life made me nervous to wade through the waves for fear of being poked by a puffer fish or stung by a jellyfish.

After looking at my photos post-Cabo, I decided to do a little research on my friend the puffer fish. Biologists think puffer fish, also known as blow fish, developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, puffer fish use their highly elastic stomachs and ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water (and air when necessary) to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size. Some species also have spines (like the ones that we encountered) on their skin to make them even less palatable.

Almost all puffer fish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them foul tasting and often lethal to fish. To humans, tetrodotoxin is deadly, up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one puffer fish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote.

Strangely enough, in Japan the meat of the puffer fish is considered a highly desirable delicacy. Deaths happen on an annual basis from improper cutting of this fish. There are rumors that the puffers fish poison is also being used to make a new pain reliever due to its numbing effects. In fact, when puffer fish is eaten it has a tendency to numb the diner's lips, mouth and tongue. Mmmm... sign me up for some puffer fish delight for dinner tonight!


Daniel and Cerissa said...

Mmmm... I think I'll pass too. Thanks for the invaluable puffer fish information :)

Still can't get over that luscious white sand you got to enjoy just last week!!!

Crystal said...

They are creepy looking fish, I think i would have stayed away from the ocean swimming too after seeing 17 of those things on the shore.

I bet the pool kept you quite content!

Rachel H. said...

I saw an amazing show on one of my favourite channels (FOOD NETWORK!) about a guy who went to a very shi-shi restaurant to serve them puffer fish. He had to be trained in puffer-fish-carving for something like 2 months before they would let him actually cut one fit for human consumption!

Tricia said...

I saw a show on puffer fish was The Simpsons

The G Fam said...

Ahh... I am so glad to hear that many of you are also intrigued by this curiously ugly creature. I cannot imagine dedicating 2 months of my life to learn how to dice up puffer fish! Now that I am thinking back there were a few large, dead birds on the beach. Perhaps they indulged in puffer and suffered the consequences?